It started with a viral article that was published on YourStory.
The article was shared more than 180,000 times on social media and fetched more than a million traffic on YourStory.
More than 100 people contacted me via email for guidance on starting up an online business. I replied to every email on the first day. Then I realised that it’s difficult to track who is making the progress after getting initial level guidance.
I wanted to get involved in the success of people who were serious of taking action. I thought that there should be a formal way of engaging with people who want to make their living online.
Then the idea of starting a weekly email newsletter germinated where I thought of sharing the insights of starting and growing business from my personal experience. I gave the name VIP Newsletter. It is easy to filter serious people if we charge a small entry fees for any program.
This idea was aligned to my mission of helping 1000 people in starting their online business. I was already doing that through my blog and emails – but now it was going to take a structured approach.
I offered following things as part of the VIP Newsletters.
- My help through weekly emails I respond to every email of VIP members .
- Insider information in newsletters that I won’t share publicly .
- Preference to work with me as partner/team if I need in the future .
- A lifelong friendship, support and love (That I need the most)
One snippet of VIP Newsletter email.
I thought of running this experiment till Dec 2017; So now sharing all my learnings with you.
The Launch Sequence
There were three steps to launch the Newsletters as a Product.
Step 1: Creating a Landing Page
It’s easy to create a page in WordPress but that looks like a blog rather than a beautiful formatted page.
So, I bought the subscription of LeadPages ($25 per month) and setup the landing page in 15 minutes. It’s better to invest in tools that help you execute fast. I was able to make more than 1 lakh rupees by investing a few dollars in the initial experiment.
Rather than waiting for days – I executed the idea within few hours.
I was able to track how many people visited the landing page, how many clicked on the payment link and how many actually paid for the product.
Step 2: Setting up payment gateway
I was not sure if anyone would pay for receiving weekly email newsletters. Nevertheless, I thought of running a quick payment gateway setup on Instamojo, that is just a 10 minutes job (Signup for Instamojo to get Rs. 500 bonus after collecting your first payment)
You can create product payments in Instamojo and share the payment links directly to your readers by email, whatsapp, social media, and blog pages.
I started by offering it at a price of Rs. 30 and kept on increasing the price every month.
Besides, I inserted the link in my landing page and I was ready for the promotions now.
Step 3: Initial Test to Validate Newsletters
I sent one email to my subscribers regarding the launch of the Newsletters and sent an update on my social media.
I was working from a co-working office that day. I left the office after announcing the launch of Newsletters.
More than 50 people joined by the time I reached home.
That was an incredible feeling. People were willing to pay to receive email newsletters. That was the validation of my product. I thought of scaling that up with the intent to genuinely help members who were joining.
Step 4: Delivering Newsletters
I used the email delivery tool Drip that comes at the cost of $49 per month. It’s worth every penny because I was able to segment the audience and delivery the content into their inbox.
I won’t go into the details of why I picked Drip when other cheap tools were available for sending emails.
The emails were the product and my focus was to deliver the best possible content to VIP Newsletter members.
Step 5: Experimenting with Price Point
I also started increasing the price to check two things
- At what price point will I get around 50 new members per month – because it was difficult to handle too many people when you are committed to respond to their queries personally.
- To filter out people who were joining just because of the low price
I kept on running some experiments every month. End objective was to filter out action takers.
The Filtration Process
It was important for me to keep only those members who are willing to take action.
So, I sent them a Google Form to know about themselves, why they joined Newsletters, what they were doing, and what do they expect from me.
41 out of 168 members of the first batch did not respond. I issued them a full refund and removed them from the Newsletters.
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I did the same with next batches as well but observed that people who were paying higher amount were more serious.
During the interactions with my readers I came to know that there were some people who don’t have the capacity to pay Rs. 2000 but they were serious about taking action.
Also, some people were able to show their commitment by working hard on their existing blog, website, app, or something similar.
I created a Free way to join Newsletter for them and asked to fill a long Google form. I reviewed all the submissions manually and approved more than 80 people to access my newsletters absolutely free of cost.
Below is the graph of all the members who have joined the newsletter till date.
Total Members = 416
Total Revenue = 1,68,814 Rupees
With every filtration process, I lost some members.
Sometimes we have to make the hard choices. We should not hesitate to do the right things even if that means a loss in business or resources.
Of course, It was a bad feeling but it was necessary.
Out of 416, I was left with only 237 members as active participants.
VIP Newsletters to Inner Circle
I stopped taking new members into VIP Newsletters now and changed the name of existing group to Inner Circle.
It’s a group of members who are directly connected with me through email, whatsapp ,and other channels. They can reach out to me for any kind of help.
They will be the first one to know any update of my business and I won’t hesitate to share the internal details of my business.
I don’t have plans to add more members to Inner Circle in the near future, but I can consider few exceptions after interacting with someone over email or face-to-face meetings.
Here are some of my learnings
Now you know how I started newsletters, why I stopped and everything in between.
I am sharing some observations and insights that can only be learned through experience. If you are planning to launch any information based product (E-book, Course, Membership or Newsletter) then you can utilise my learnings in building your business.
Do me a favor after reading the entire article:
If you learned something today, share this article with at least one person who will get benefited.
Let’s help each other in growing online business and become financially free before turning 45 years of age.
People pay for premium content even if it’s unstructured like a newsletter
It’s the myth that people don’t pay for online content in India.
If you are an influencer who have deep knowledge in any particular domain, then you can find that your followers can pay for receiving weekly emails from you.
It’s a great learning. Next time you can also try selling something to your audience that they feel valuable even if others are offering that for FREE.
80% people come for the magic bullet, they want to change their circumstances without changing themselves
People joined newsletters but they were not taking actions. I pushed them hard in every possible way but they were still expecting some magic to happen.
Two things I got to learn
- One is that people don’t take action even after paying
- Second, the same (non-action behaviour) is the biggest reason of their failure and unfortunately they don’t realise it.
I suggest them to read a lot of books and blogs. I will publish the list of books and blogs that have changed my life in last 3 years.
They don’t ask for the refund even if they are unsatisfied.
I know some of the guys joined just to see what’s being offered in the premium email newsletters.
After that they disappeared because they did not find it helpful for any reason. Interestingly, they never asked for the refund even when they were within money back period.
People don’t fight for the refund even after getting removed from the program.
I removed non-action takers from the newsletters but no one fought for the refunds.
After all Rs. 2000 is a good money in India.
People used to ignore after paying for services. I know that they still respect what I am doing and they may buy something again from me. But I was expecting that people will ask for the refunds after being removed from the newsletters.
I was ready to refund as I don’t want people’s money if they are not ready to take action.
Only serious people ask for the status
Along with VIP Newsletters, I also started a course on content marketing and 10K Challenge.
In all the cases, only a very few percent people asked me the status of next lesson or suggested me what they want to learn from the newsletters.
That’s a handful of people but they are extremely valuable, I am always eager to help those people who help themselves.
I want to say sorry to those people who asked for the status from me whenever I was late in delivering the content. I am committed to provide you value and keep sending you insights as I will get time.
People admit their mistake but occasionally inform that I am also making mistakes
I know I am not perfect but why don’t you tell me how can I improve. Whenever I asked them how can I improve myself they did not pointed my mistakes (except 2-3 people).
But whenever I asked where they are lacking, a lot of people responded by admitting their mistakes and shortcomings.
I don’t know if it’s good or bad but it’s a learning experience for me.
Community building is a very powerful
That’s learning as well as my earning from VIP newsletters.
I have a private community inside the Inner Circle.
Also a public community in a Facebook Group (Blogging to Business). It’s a small group of 1400 people but the group absolutely clean from spams and we allow only genuine discussions to happen.
Whenever I need support, I can connect with a lot of friends and well wishers that I earned in last 9 months.
I think every online entrepreneur should have one community around him. It could be a Whatsapp group, Facebook Group, Email List (with 90% open & response rate), a discussion forum or anything.
My Next Year’s Plan
This year has been fruitful, packed with a lot of failures and successes.
I made more than 50 new friends with whom I can discuss my ideas. Some of those will become my partners or team members in the future.
The fact is that I found my current team members from VIP Newsletters. Both are helping me in managing the content of CashOverflow and experimenting with side projects. I feel that I can find my entire future team within the community.
Not just team, one of the VIP Newsletter members became my client whom I am helping in content marketing. Now they are my close friends and I don’t treat them like a client.
There is so much to learn from each other and I will continue to put my efforts in making the community grow.
Did you learn something today?
Now help me spread the learning to people who can make the real use of these insights. Share this message with a friend.
Wait for the article in which I will share my next year’s goals and reflect back on what I was able to achieve in 2017. I will publish that in the first week of Jan 2018.